Episode 321 - Key Note From RootsTech, Kennerly, Talks Photography With Fisher / Paul Woodbury Shares Knowledge Distant DNA Matches At RootsTech

podcast episode Mar 15, 2020

Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org.  The guys open “Family Histoire News” with the story of a a woman who discovered a missing cemetery! (These things happen.) Hear the story. Next David reveals recent talk about Jeanne Calment, the French woman who has long been lauded as the oldest person ever to live at 122. But wait. Not so fast! Then a woman born in 1920 has just celebrated her 25th birthday. Those things happen when you’re born on February 29th! Hear her take on her special day. New research is now telling us the age at which we will be happiest. Find out how much longer you need to deal with the “misery” of life. Then, the first genetic genealogy DNA case is coming to a head. Word is the Golden State Killer will plead guilty to avoid the death penalty. David then talks about a unique site… FamilyScrybe.com. It’s about how you can create your own free family history web site.

Fisher then visits backstage at RootsTech with David Hume Kennerly, one of the great historic photographers of our time, going back to the 1960s. David talks about his experiences as well as thoughts on how to get the most out of your family history pictures.

Next, Paul Woodbury, DNA specialist at LegacyTree.com, visits with Fisher from the Legacy Tree RootsTech booth about dealing with the distant matches and putting them to work for you.

David then returns as the guys talk about their highlights at RootsTech. The Mayflower 400 played a role, as did a new DNA lab that might be a game changer for many of us.

Then, it is Ask Us Anything as the guys talk about the St. Louis archive fire of 1973, and what still might be worth going after.

That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!

Transcript of Episode 321

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 321

Fisher: Andwelcome to another spine-tingling episode of Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth in the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. Great to have you! And I’ll tell you what, what a time we had at Salt Lake City, Utah this past week with RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center. You know, there was nothing held back because of Corona Virus. Everybody was having a great time, and there were so many things going on. And so, today’s show is going to have a RootsTech slant to it. My first guest will be David Hume Kennerly. He was one of the keynote speakers at the conference. He is of course, the renowned historic photographer of the last 55 years or so. I mean, he’s been there for all the historic events that have taken place with presidents and assassinations and wars and he talks about how to tell a story using photographs, and we even delve a little bit into family history photography. And some tips that we get from him could be useful to you, so that’s coming up here in about 15 minutes.

Later in the show you’ll hear my interview with Paul Woodbury that we did at the Legacy Tree Genealogy desk at RootsTech. Paul talks about going back to some of those earlier matches and how you might be able to use those to uncover some of your earlier lines. And what about those matches that might be considered identical by state? Do we worry about them? Do we not? Paul’s got some insight on that too.But right now, it’s time to head out to Boston and talk to my good friend David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. He was dressed like a pilgrim for half the conference. You know, people couldn’t figure out who you were. Just who were you anyway?

David:I didn’t know. But who was I portraying? I was portraying John Billington, a pilgrim who actually was executed for killing a man 10 years after arriving.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 


David:So, if you’re going to pick somebodyit might as well be the blacksheep, you know. Everyone wants to be William Bradford and John Alden.

Fisher:Yeah. This was America’s first accused killer. That’s right.

David:I do want to say that we enjoyed one RootsTech this year, but as Sea Rock would announce, there’s another one. RootsTech London will be coming back November 5th through 7th in London, England.

Fisher:That’s going to be awesome. Well, let’s get on with our Family Histoire News because we’ve got a lot of it today.

David:Well, you know, people always assume historical places have been well searched. Well, so did Bonnie Zampino when she was exploring the woods near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Of course, the raid by John Brown on Harpers Ferry in 1859, the precursory to the Civil War is well known to most students of American history. And she found something. She found a single white marker with the initials JDA. Now, what’s intriguing about this, she thought it was one person. It turns out she may have located a former Civil War cemetery that had been long forgotten. Back in about 1959 there was knowledge of a cemetery that may have had about 60 individuals buried in it and I think she may have found it.


David:So, good luck sleuthing Bonnie. Now, many of you may recall our super centenarian Jeanne Calment, who died back in the 1990s at the ripe old age of over 122 years, born in 1875.

Fisher:That’s right.

David:Yeah, there’s a little problem with that. It turns out that Jeanne may have been Yvonne, Jeanne’s daughter. Gerontologists and photography experts have looked over the information. They’ve talked to people that knew her and people are now thinking that her daughter Yvonne that died back in the 1930s was actually Yvonne’s mother Jeanne that died and that Yvonne became her mother to prevent paying inheritance tax.

Fisher:Wow! Well, that an amazing story. And where was that?

David:That was in The New Yorker.

Fisher:All right. And hopefully, at some point they’ll be able to actually use some DNA from some place to prove that, but that’s amazing.

David:Well, they mentioned that there was a blood sample a gerontologist took that is still around, so hopefully, that will confirm it. Well, happy 25th birthday to Angie Caldwell. Well, actually she was born on a Leap year. She’s actually 100 years old.

Fisher:Oh wow! [Laughs]

David:But because she was born on a Leap year, she’s really 25 years old.

Fisher:That’s pretty promising isn’t it, for a long life? Congratulations to her. Where does she live?

David:New Jersey, and she says she doesn’t feel any older than 75.


David:You know, now that we’ve talked about somebody who was 122, not really, now we talked about somebody who’s 25 but really 100, how about age 82? That’s what Daniel Levitin tells you that you are at your happiest.

Fisher:Oh wow! 82?

David:At 82, yeah, not at retirement. “The Changing Mind: A Neuroscientist’s Guide to Aging Well” is suggesting that people reach their happiest at the age of 82 that has been determined across 72 countries.

Fisher:Wow, how many people actually make it to 82 to know that they’re going to be that happy? That’s crazy.

David: I will tell you when I reach it and I’ll be giving you a call on the phone.

Fisher:[Laughs] There you go.

David:We’ve covered a lot on the Golden State Killer in the previous year now and it is now determined that Joseph DeAngelo will plead guilty to avoid the death penalty. Of course, DeAngelo was accused of killing 13 people and burglarizing dozens of homes back in the 1970s and 1980s.

Fisher: Wow. And of course, it was CeCe Moore that led the charge, and this was the first cold case solved using the DNA technique that has really changed our whole space.

David: It has. And hats off to CeCe and all others that are out there finding the killers of those that have been cold cases for years. My blogger spotlight would be a hard one to determine, but this one is a new kid on the block and it is Familyscrybe.com. And what Familyscrybe is going to be launching is a platform so you can blog about your family. You don’t have to learn code or invest in getting the URL. Familyscrybe will do that all for you. You can find out more at Familyscrybe.comin an exciting new kid on the RootsTechfloor at the vendor hall.

Fisher: That sounds really intriguing. I’m looking forward to hearing more about that.

David: Well, that’s about all I have for this week now that my Mayflower has pulled in and I’ve parked and if the three-hour time difference isn’t affecting me, I’ll dig out some more Family Histoire News for next week.

Fisher: All right David, thank you so much. We will talk to you again at the back end of the show. We’re going to talk a little more about RootsTech, some of the highlights for both of us and of course, Ask Us Anything as well.

David: All right.

Fisher: And coming up next, it’s David Hume Kennerly, the renowned photographer. He’s been there for every major historic event in the last half century or so. Hear what he has to say about storytelling through photography, not only for history, but for your family history, coming up next on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 321

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Hume Kennerly

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. Of course, we just enjoyed RootsTechlast week in Salt Lake City, Utah, and I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the keynote speakers, David Hume Kennerly who is one of the renowned historic photographers of our day. He goes back over 50 years. He was the official White House photographer for Gerald Ford. He covered the Vietnam War. He covered assassinations. He’s the man behind many photographs that you will recognize if you ever go online and look him up. And he talks to me about how to capture a story through photography and even through family history photography. It’s been a joy to watch your speech today, and I was thinking back in my mind to Mathew Brady because you were about 100 years after him as you came of age as a photographer. And his photography of the Civil War really changed the way the country viewed that war. And a 100 years later it really hasn’t changed that much, has it?

David: Well, Mathew Brady, in the same breath, you have to mention Alexander Gardner who was his partner in business and a lot of the pictures Alexander Gardner took, everybody thinks Mathew Brady took. He also did Lincoln portraits. The two of them really shed a light on the Civil War, the participants. I think some of the portraits that they took at the time. And I think Mathew Brady may have the record for the most presidents’ portraits. I’m not entirely sure but he photographed. I don’t know if he did John Adams. I think he did. Not sure when John Adams was a congressman. Because photography started in 1838 and right off the bat among the first people they started photographing were politicians, and only five presidents were not photographed. But Mathew Brady did so many of the earlier ones from Grant, to Lincoln, and on and on and on, but I’m proud to be mentioned in the same sentence with Mathew Brady.

Fisher: You know, as you think about the history of photography, when you were a young photographer coming up, and showed here in your speech today that it started with a picture of a cat, at what point did you realize that the stories you were documenting could actually affect public perception and actually potentially change public opinion and bring about political change?

David: Well, that’s a really good question, but I’m not totally sure that it does. [Laughs] I would like to say that it does, and I’ve seen some instances where I think it affected it. But I don’t think that was ever my mission in life. I think it was more to be in situations and photograph things that people don’t want to see but have to see whether it’s a war, whether it’s 9/11, Jones Town. You saw some of those photos. Those are really hard to look at, but by the same token you need to know what goes on and photos are really the vehicle that takes it right into your heart and soul.

Fisher: Absolutely. And in family history of course we deal with that all the time where we can look back. It’s really a way to time travel and capture maybe the personalities of people that we never had the opportunity to meet. I mean, what a privilege for you it’s been to be in the presence of all these great leaders throughout your life.

David: Right. And I never took it for granted. Every day I would pull under the White House, like I’d come driving up in my VW, the gates would open.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: That was back when they weren’t really like wildly security conscious. They were, but they’d see me coming. They knew it was me. I’d pull in and I thought, my gosh, I just came into the White House every day. [Laughs]

Fisher: How old were you the first time?

David: When I became the chief White House photographer I was 27.

Fisher: Oh, wow. [Laughs]

David: Actually, I was out of the White House before I was 30 years old. End of my career as I knew it. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: I had like a wild decade in my 20s. I mean, everything from winning the Pulitzer to being the president’s photographer, I mean, I had an incredible early run at it but then I’ve kept going. I haven’t stopped. I’m going to be 73 in March and have no intention of stopping.

Fisher: As I think back on what it must be like to be a kid in your 20s to go off and be the photographer for the president, did you have to go through all kinds of clearance, screenings, and all that? Because as you said, one of your demands from President Ford was if you’re going to do this job, you’re going to have access to everything.

David: Yeah, that’s a great question. Of course, I had a very high clearance because I was in all the meetings. I was in National Security Council meetings, the President’s daily briefing by the CIA, and I would get calls like from first grade school teacher saying, “What have you done? Like, the FBI was here asking questions.” [Laughs] And that’s how. Yes, they were very rigorous actually. I had to list all of the places I traveled. I couldn’t even remember. It was so long. I mean, today it would be very difficult to fill out a form because I think I’ve been in like 125 countries on assignments. But anyway, President Ford said to me, “Your gravestone should read, “Here lies the worst source in Washington.” I never felt compelled to tell people what I knew. I’m an incredibly discreet person. And it’s not just me. It’s any photographer who’s in a privileged position or just in a normal situation. We’re in for the photos, not to tell reporters or somebody what we know.

Fisher: I saw a picture in there that just made me smile because it was George W. Bush. I had the privilege of getting to meet him at one time, signing your head. Now how did that come about?

David: George W. Bush is a bit of a character and kind of a prankster. And what I will say is that he did not, I don’t think, I don’t remember, but I don’t think he actually signed my head.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: But he let on that he was going to do it. But he’s somebody I know very well and appreciate. His dad was actually a better friend. I like George. He’s somebody you can sit down and have a beer with and a really decent guy.

Fisher: So, I’m sure you must do personal pictures even within your family. You probably demanded to do that at every reunion. What kind of tips would you give to family members if they were just taking ordinary pictures documenting their own family history?

David: Well, I think one of the key points is trying to do candid pictures of your kids in the act of being themselves, not just looking at the camera and smiling. Now, I’m guilty of this. Like okay, let’s get the prefatory picture, you know. But if you can open it up a little bit and you look at them, it’s like interesting subjects. So, you’re documenting, and there they are making their science projects, or playing with the dog or whatever it is. You just somehow get to a point where they don’t notice you’re around because most kids won’t give you a break on pictures. You know, they like, “Oh, another picture.” But I got to stop. Think of yourself as a documentarian, like you’re recording some history. It’s family history. And I think it’s really important.

Fisher: So, you’ve seen My Heritage’s new colorization feature on their website. Did you see some of the images that they colorize?

David: I did see those. It’s sort of like Ted Turner’s concept comes to life in still pictures, not just movies. Yeah, I think it’s really interesting. You have no idea what the colors really were of course.

Fisher: Right.

David: But then I think it does make them livelier really. Of course, most of my earlier career was shooting black and white pictures. I was never really interested in having those colorized per se, because then you have the historical element there, about like was she wearing a red dress or a blue dress? But I liked it. For one thing, I was amazed how good the quality was really. I’ll definitely try it out.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: I will. Maybe I’ll do the Ali/Frazier knockdown picture and put it through the machine and see how it comes out.

Fisher: Well, and you have some color pictures to compare them to anyway, right, from that fight?

David: Yes. There’s a guy who’s done some historical colorization. And that was one picture I really would like to see in color was Ali and Frazier because I did shoot it in black and white. But the sports illustrated people were there. It would be very easy to find out exactly what the colors were because there were color pictures of the event. You don’t get those in 1880 however.

Fisher: There is a difference between how people perceive a black and white and even a tinted photo from the old days to a color one. Do you, when you’re doing a photograph, take into account what kind of mood you’re trying to transmit?

David: All I’m trying to do is get a genuine read and memorialize something that was going on, like the tension in the room. I think that picture like the nightin 2000 was a perfect example of that. You could see the tension. It was just exploding out of the photo. It was a big moment. The governor’smansion with Governor Bush thought he was the president elect, and then he wasn’t. [Laughs] Like you can’t beat that for history.

Fisher: No. And he wasn’t for quite a long time after that, a month or two.

David: Yeah, he went for a while. And of course, everybody in the room I knew well, like Dick Cheney. I was over there with Cheney that night, and photographers who had been traveling with Bush got kicked out at the time was with Newsweek. Nobody kicked me out because I didn’t have my own minder with me. Plus, they all knew me so it wasn’t unusual that I was there. I wasn’t like a stranger, but what a night. I live for that stuff because that was one of the biggest nights of my life professionally because it was one of the biggest nights in history.

Fisher: Obviously, trust with your subjects after all this period of time has been really important in your career.

David: Well, you saw pictures I had. I was with Rumsfeld in his office as the strike against Afghanistan was commencing. And that meant cruise missiles were on the way and all of that. Of course, they knew when they landed the deal was up at that point. Part of my success has been that I have been a trusted person in the room. I’ve never been the source of a leak. I’ve never really been the source of any kind of story. Every reporter I’ve worked with, they respect that. They know I’m in there because I can be there and the pictures are not talking. That’s why you don’t ever see video of that stuff because you could read their lips.

Fisher: It’s interesting because your career, I mean, you’ve created a brand for yourself and yet you have never been the story.

David: If I’m the story, I did the wrong thing somehow. [Laughs] I don’t want to be the story. I mean, I don’t mind telling stories later, but I’ve never talked about classified information or embarrassing things. I guess I’m not a gossipy person really.

Fisher: You just kind of stay neutral politically and intellectually and just capture the moment.

David: It’s hard to stay neutral these days however, because I feel that the first amendment is under direct attack from the president of the United States and I take it personally. I take that really personally. I’ve had so many friends and colleges who have died in action telling the story. And I think when that’s diminished or demeaned, you’re taking me on and I don’t like it.

Fisher: He’s David Hume Kennerly, the noted photographer. Thanks so much for your time sir.

David: Thank you.

Fisher: And I think by the way when he was talking about photographing presidents and he referenced John Adams, he was actually talking about John Quincy Adams. Coming up next, I’m going to talk to Paul Woodbury the DNA specialist from Legacy Tree Genealogists about some of those far away matches and what they can do for you, when we return on Extreme Genes.

Segment 3 Episode 321

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Paul Woodbury

Fisher:Hey, we’re back at it. It is Fisher here, with our special RootsTech version of Extreme Genes this week. Here is my visit with DNA specialist Paul Woodbury from Legacy Tree Genealogists. We’re going to talk about some of these matches that come up in our DNA research, Paul, that they reach a certain point they’re really not of a lot of use.

Paul: Yeah. I think, more specifically looking at some of these more distance matches it gets kind of a mixed bag. Some of them are going to be useful. Some of them are going to be so far removed from you that it’s going to take many, many years to try and figure out how they’re related. And some of them aren’t actually true matches at all.

Fisher: All right. So, let’s talk about that for a minute. First of all, what is the average number of matches most people have?

Paul: I have heard recently from many of the companies that it’s not uncommon to have fifty thousand matches that you’re dealing with, with autosomal DNA.

Fisher: Wow! So even if it were half that, I mean it’s a number that’s really unattainable in terms of trying to figure out where they all fit in. And why would you want to anyway?

Paul: Yeah, exactly. And that is one of the things that commonly comes as a question for me, people say, how do I make sense of all of all this data? How do I even begin working through some of these fifty thousand matches?  And I say, don’t try because then you’ve got the rest of your life cut out for you.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Paul: You know, you need to focus your research questions and use DNA as a tool to better address your research questions, rather than trying to figure out how you’re related to every single person in your match list.

Fisher: So, do you have a cut-off point that you typically recommend? Where you say, okay, we’re not really going to look at matches beyond fourth cousins, fifth cousins, sixth cousins. I’m sure it depends on each individual case and what you’re trying to achieve. But generically speaking, what’s a good cut-off point for somebody trying to sort, say, I want to sort them all through this much, as much as I can?

Paul: You know, it will depend on the case, just because of the nature of different populations. And rather than a cut-off point in terms of relationship, I will often start with a threshold in terms of centimorgans, so, the amount of DNA that they’re sharing with me because trying to apply a threshold of a fifth cousin versus a sixth cousin. Well, first I have to figure out who all those fifth and sixth cousins are, right? But, if I can say, I’m going to focus first on everybody over 50 centimorgans.

Fisher: Right.

Paul: Then that gives me a starting point. Then I can work through that list and the approach that I take is to start with what’s closest to you. That is the advice that I got from my mother when I was feeling overwhelmed when I was in high school and I was thinking, where do I start? What do I do? I’ve just got so much homework. And she said, “Start with what’s closest to you.” I think that helps you to make sense of those closer matches and eventually move down through your list. And as you move through your list, as you work from those really close matches to more distant, you’ll begin to see patterns of how people are related to each other. How they’re fitting into groups and you can begin to see some of these patterns emerge.

Fisher: Well, and these closer ones of course are going to match to people further back. It’s going to really help you narrow, so that really has got to be the way you start, first the closest ones.

Paul: Yeah, exactly. And what that does is it sets us up with a foundation for success so that when we do begin digging into those more distant matches, those that are sharing less than 20 centimorgans, 15 centimorgans, 10 centimorgans. There is going to be some that are helpful for your research. And the way that you can determine which of those is going to be helpful is by first putting in that effort to organize those closer matches first, so you can begin putting them into the correct groups and identifying them based on their relationships to your closer relatives.

Fisher: So, late last year, I had a connection that broke open the lines of some third great grandparents over in England, because a woman spit in a tube in Australia and she matched me, and my brother, and my half-sister, and three second cousins. And since then has matched to my first cousin as well. And we figured out that there were some other matches from further back that said, oh, it’s up this line. And then one more generation, oh, it’s up this line. It looks like she must be a descendent of our Wicks ancestors.

Paul: Um hmm.

Fisher: And as a result of those we were able to place it and she had on her tree somebody named Wicks, when we researched that woman, we learned that she was a previously unknown daughter of my couple ancestors and was born 35 miles away from where I normally knew them to be.

Paul: Oh, wow.

Fisher: So, we found the maiden name of the mother. We found their marriage record. We found their christening, and one line goes back now to 1575, all because a woman in Australia spit in a tube. But, because we found that, I also wound up looking now specifically for other people who descended from that same couple that she did, and found like four others and they match four of us or three of us, or five of us. So, we got this constant confirmation coming that yeah, this is the same couple. This is correct. And it found me. I didn’t really have to go looking for it so much, other than, where does she fit in? Why is she matching all these people? I think that’s kind of what you’re talking about, right?

Paul: Yeah, exactly. That you start with the known relationships and once you begin to see some of these people coming through that say, oh, they’re matching DNA with all of these known relatives from this particular line. They have to be through that line.

Fisher: Right.

Paul: Let’s figure out and build their family tree and see how we intersect with each other, maybe a little bit further beyond my brick wall.

Fisher: And isn’t that interesting to know too that you can have that smaller number of shared centimorgans and still have it make a huge difference in your research because this is a number that I’ve heard, Paul, on identical by state, some people have said 20 or 25% of your matches. And you take a big gasp and go, oh my goodness, well, that could mean a huge number of my matches aren’t really matches by being related to me, but just by coincidence, ultimately, right? But really that number would have far more to do with the matches that are really a tiny amount, yes?

Paul: Absolutely. So, once you’re getting into the weeds of those more distant matches, you’ll be beginning to see some of those more, identical by state matches. And we say, 20% of my matches are identical by state, or 50% of my matches are identical by state. But, if you consider that each person has fifty thousand matches that means, that the closer matches are almost always related because of a recent common ancestor. And as you get further into those weeds that’s where you’re going to see some of these matches and that’s where the majority of your matches as a total are going to be, right? I may have 5,000 fourth cousins or I may have 500 fourth cousins and the rest are going to be these more distant relatives. So, it’s not terribly concerning that many of them are not going to be related through a recent common ancestor that we can identify. But, if you focus on those close relatives first then that will bring meaning as you’re exploring some of these more distant relatives. And the things you want to look for are, do they match some of the individuals who’ve identified? They may only share 10 centimorgans with you, or 7 centimorgans with you. But, if you look at their shared match list whether that be at Ancestry, 23andMe, My Heritage, or Family Tree DNA, it doesn’t matter which company, you can see which of those people are shared matches. How much DNA do they share with your shared matches? And although they may only share 7 centimorgans with you, if they’re sharing 50 centimorgans, 40, 30, 20 with your known fourth cousin, or your known third cousin, then that brings us to the point that they are much more pertinent than perhaps any other random genetic cousin who happens to have a surname that you are interested in but has no shared matches.

Fisher: No shared. So, generally, you can identify somebody like this, they don’t have any matches with you at all and it’s a very small amount. So, really as you go about your work solving some very complicated cases for Legacy Tree, you don’t worry too much about it, do you? About identical by state, they’re pretty much irrelevant.

Paul: Yeah. They’re far enough down the list that we rarely get to them, if at all. And the ones that we’re focusing on are those that are the more recent relatives that we’re trying to build a foundation and the ones that we analyze that may share less DNA, are going to be those that share at least more DNA with other known relatives.

Fisher: Paul Woodbury from Legacy Tree, great to see you again.

Paul: Thanks.

Fisher: And hope you have a great RootsTech.

Paul: You as well.

Fisher: And coming up next, David Allen Lambert rejoins me to talk about more of the highlights of RootsTech, on Extreme Genes,

Segment 4 Episode 321

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, we are back on our RootsTech theme show today on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. David Allen Lambert is back, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And David, we're talking RootsTech here and some of your highlights. Where do you want to begin?

David: Meeting David Hume Kennerly and first meeting Emmitt Smith dressed as a pilgrim!

Fisher: Yes. This was a picture I never thought I'd see, David dressed as a pilgrim posing for a photo with Emmitt Smith who was one of the keynote speakers. He did a great presentation, because he has been featured on Who Do You Think You Are and wound up actually going back to Africa to meet people from where his ancestors came from. It was incredible. You know, there was quite a Mayflower theme this year at RootsTech as well, because there was not only a ship that was on display that people could pose with and actually a replica of theMayflower Compactthat people could sign, but there was also an original bible from William Bradford that was brought over on the Mayflower that was on display from Brent Ashworthwho got it in an auction. And it was amazing to see the awe on the face of some of Bradford's descendants who came to see the bible. It was absolutely incredible.

David: And the pilgrim hat that was right next door.

Fisher: Yeah, and a pilgrim hat. It’s the oldest hat that Brent has. We've had him on the show. He has like a million historic items in his collection. He's absolutely amazing. And David, also your group, NEHGS along with Steve Rockwoodfrom Family Search made a special announcement.

David: That's true. We've been working together to get over 30,000 applications of those born before 1920 who were members of the general society and the Mayflower descendants, but here's the catch, they're going to be digitized online, but they'll be on trees connecting members descending from William Bradford with all the information from the applications, searchable on American Ancestors with Family Search.

Fisher: That's so fun, because if you're looking to join the Society of Mayflower Descendants, this makes things really easy.

David: It does. If you're looking to prove the application from the Mayflower Society, generally speaking, you're in good shape.

Fisher: We have a lot of announcements from the various companies. I thought My Heritage did a great job taking a well deserved bow for their new colorization feature on their website, so we can turn our digitized black and white photographs into color, and it’s free!

David: It is. And as a member, you can have unlimited. And it’s great, because they've had over a million photos colorized through that product.

Fisher: That's right.

David: It’s amazing. The other big announcement is, we came from Ancestry where you now can get transcribed all the information. New York City vital records from 1862 to 1949, as well as World War II draft cards, including the young men draft cards, which were previously not available. I found my dad, Fish.

Fisher: Wow!

David: And I found his occupation and a place I didn't even know he worked.

Fisher: Huh! And you know, that's all in these draft cards, too from the early '40s, so a lot of people are going to find a lot of stuff there.

David: And the only one that's missing is the state of Maine was misplaced or lost years ago, but the rest of the states are there. So it’s exciting stuff from RootsTech. Companies like Ancestry always hold off, but as My Heritage said, they were too excited about the colorization to wait for RootsTech to release it.

Fisher: [Laughs] They were right, it was incredible.

David: I think that everybody loves RootsTech and I do, because I always meet new vendors, and one of them is Place and Name. It’s an English company, which is expanding into more of a guild of one name studies when you search a surname. It’s when you adopt a community. And it’s already big in England and its coming over here across the pond where you can pick your hometown and setup basically a webpage for it and they have all the tools. So Place and Name is a new one as well as Treasured, which is a Canadian based company that does a virtual reality family mansion if you will. You travel around it, you find clues and you find ways of finding your family and pictures. It’s quite amazing.

Fisher: Wow!

David: It involves the whole family.

Fisher: And we've got to give a little love to DNA Relics. You're going to be hearing a lot more about them in the weeks ahead right here on Extreme Genes. All right, David, let's take a break, and when we come back, we'll do another Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show in three minutes.

Segment 5 Episode 321

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, we’re back for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth with David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And David, we’ve got a question from Georgia in Bristol, Rhode Island. She says, “Guys, in light of Ancestry’s announcement about the World War II draft registration records being made public, what can you tell me about how many of the army records from World War II were destroyed in that fire in St. Louis?”

David:Well, in 1973 on July 12th there was a fire that took out 80% of the US Army Personnel Records that were kept between November 12 and January 1st of 1906, so 80% gone. And then of course the Army Air Corps was part of that and then of course the Air Force was developed in1947 from the army. And those records from September 1947 through January 1st 1964, 75% of those are gone.

Fisher: Ugh.

David: But there is hope. There are burnt files. So, if you make your request of the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, make sure you put on it, please check for burnt files, because they’ve been recovering them. It’s quite interesting. So, the records that were destroyed by fire, there are fragments and there are records that got wet. And what they are doing now is they are actually digitizing. They are cleaning up the images and looking for the ink from underneath the burnt paper. They are able to provide you sometimes with fragmented records. In fact, Melanie McComb, who we’ve had on the show, she was able to get the day rosters for her own grandfather. And those records were singed, but they do survive.

Fisher: Isn’t that something? Now, these were on different floors, right? That’s why the Navy Records, for instance, survived and the Army Records got so decimated. And yet, you mentioned that it’s like 80%, which means 20% of the records made it through, right?

David: That’s true. And if course, that is where we really are not sure because they have not started to digitize the records and made them publicly accessible. I would imagine in the next decade you’ll be seeing places such as Fold3or FamilySearch working to get these digitized and up and accessible because our World War II generation is going to be gone, or very close to the end. I figure the average age by then would be 105. So, this is something that is really valuable to people. And of course, you can get records on the state level. The Adjutant General’s office or the National Guard Office in every state will have an actual copy of the DD214, which is the honorable discharge for the veteran. And you can make application to that on the state level and that will give you a little bit of information.

Fisher: Wow! You would think that the federal government would say if those records were available locally that they could gather that all together and create at least some kind of national database for all that information.

David: I would hope that that would be the plan for down the road. I know that over the years the National Personnel Records Center has asked if you have copies of your own records then they would destroy it. Please send it to them so they can have it on file.

Fisher: Oh, wow!

David:So, that’s something if you have like, you know, records for your dad or your grandparent and they fall into that time frame, and you make your request and say the records are burnt. Guess what? They would really like a copy of them to try to fill in the blanks. And of course, the other thing is once, in the army for instance, you know the unit, you can contact the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and they have the unit’s histories, which has all sorts of detail from the time that the unit was called into service to the time they mustered out.

Fisher: Unbelievable. David, thanks so much. Georgia, thanks for the question. And of course, if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, you can always email us at [email protected]. Hey, that’s a wrap on the show today. Thanks to everybody who participated. We have a lot of RootsTech stuff yet to cover in the coming weeks, so we hope you’ll join us for that. If you missed any of the show, of course, catch the podcast. It’s on iTunes,iHeartRadio,Spotify. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can sign up for our “Weekly Genie Newsletter” on our ExtremeGenes.com website or on Facebook. Talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us and remember, as far as everyone knows, we’re a nice normal family!

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